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Le Merende Sinoire

Vineria Trattoria - via Piancroesio 64, Paesana (Cuneo)

I wish we had these types of eateries in Lombardia. Merenda [singular] means a snack taken mid-morning/mid-afternoon. Add to this the word sinoira [pl. sinoire] and what you've got is a late-afternoon reason for skipping dinner altogether. In the Po Valley we saw at least 3 of these wine/snackbar establishments with signs out on the roadside, and just like the leafy frasca in Friuli, we couldn't miss out on the region's local flair. Typically, the merenda sinoira begins at around 5pm, but according to the woman who runs Vineria Trattoria, customers can expect to be served meat, cheese and whatever else on the menu any time during opening hours. I like the casual ease of places like this since you don't have to dress up. People come in for an espresso or a glass of wine and a quick chat before heading off their merry way.

The dialect of this area was mainly undecipherable by the MotH, but it was enough to know that like anywhere else in this great big world, the local hangout is where you share your ups and downs with the regulars. I only wish that I had thought to ask one simple question of the man sitting next to us: 'Scuse me, but could you tell us where's the best place to eat dinner?

A selection of locally cured meats: salame, prosciutto, lardo, mortadella, roasted pork. Meat plays a large role in piemontese cuisine. Fried, boiled or stuffed into pasta, they are all delicious but it left me hungering for fresh, leafy greens when we got back.

Not for bland palates. This dish of cured anchovies on toast doused in a potent garlic, parsley and olive oil sauce (salsa verde) was heavy on the salty side. I enjoyed it but only between sips of red wine to wash it all down. If we had ordered cheese and whatever else on the menu, it would have been just too much for the arteries and blood pressure. Still, I'd do this all over again. For less than 24 euros we avoided having to go out again for dinner. The following are just some reviews on a couple of other restaurants we went to in the area.

La Torre

via Villa, 35
Brondello, (Cuneo)

Where or where did I go wrong? How is it okay to be kept waiting almost 40 minutes for each dish? I chose this restaurant out of the Slow Food guide because it was noted for having an excellent choice of cheese. I guess we'll never know because in the end, the 'mouse' in me squeaked, "Let's blow this joint because no stinky cheese is worth sitting it out for 2 hours." End of story. I'll refrain from giving this place a bad mark since the pastas, duck and lamb were fairly decent, albeit lukewarm. The owner needs to realize that timing is essential. Even if you don't use "pre-cooked foods" (he actually said that), Slow Food does not mean operating at a snail's pace. Regrettable, rude and boorish.

Ristorante Sarvanot

via Maestra n°3
Castellar (Cuneo)

This is just the sort of place where locals in-the-know go for a satisfying, unfussy meal. I regret not having amazing food pics to share, but it would only disappoint those who fancy form over function. We will definitely return here the next time we visit Po Valley, and believe me, for 22 euros pp, the degustazione (tasting menu) of 3 antipasti, 2 pasta dishes and a secondo (meat) was filling! This included an old-fashioned apple cake with gelato, every bite confirming that the food here is definitely made from scratch. The service was welcoming but discreet, and the atmosphere was that warm, comfy, italian style where everything is in polished wood and pale, crisp linens. The name of the restaurant, if you haven't noticed, is the same name for those woodland creatures that I had written about previously. We didn't go so far as to ask why Sarvanot because something else caught our attention on a poster outside. On the first 2 Sundays of May, a Festa degli Spaventapasseri (celebration of the scarecrows) is held in the village. Our restaurant host explained that it was a great family event for kids, with scarecrows (they look quite cheerful in the photos!) all around and activities for the little ones.


Ciao Chow Linda said…
I love the idea of those merende sinoires. Those sliced meats look so wonderful and I'd love a plate of those anchovies too.
K and S said…
those mid-morning/mid-afternoon stops are so neat! I wish we had some here...sorry to hear the "slow food" place was literally slow.
RONW said…
these finds are priceless. Goldilocks couldn't have done better.
Fern Driscoll said…
Merende here (Liguria) seem to lean towards the easy nuts and chips, with maybe a few slices of salami. Your plate looks yummy. Louis says it's hard to get a bad meal in Italy, but it can be done. What a pity the La Torre obliged in that department. boo.
Anonymous said…
I've always considered the merenda sinoira a sort of equivalent to Brunch (*Snupper* = snack+supper? - *Tinner* = tea+dinner?), but the afternoon/evening version!
Whatever you want to call it, I love it! And for me it can take the place of dinner anytime!
Mamma Laura
P.S. Puppy coming home tomorrow!!!
dario said…
:-) and don't forget the nice Tigro... the only being allowed to be friend by Mr Bentley, till now!
Brad Farless said…
I almost drooled on myself when I saw the locally cured meats photo. It made me miss the delis in the US.
Looks like a great snack anytime of day.
Rowena said…
CC Linda - there's a place in Torino named A La Merenda Sinoira that was a pretty good deal for this sort of eating. Nothing fancy, but I remember being very stuffed!

Kat - those places work out real good especially after a day of hiking. No need to go back to the hotel/b&b to dress up. Just nab a table and sit outside with the dogs.

RONW - my eyeballs are always on the look out for these kind of things. It's like...on the hunt for the biggest laulau or the freshest malassadas when you go neighbor islands. Whack 'em!

Fern - what ligurian cuisine may lack in snack foods, it more than makes up for with everything else. The farinata, the cappon magro!
Rowena said…
Mamma Laura - I am so excited for you!!!

Dario - yes Tigro! How could I forget the first dog that MrB did not attack.

Brad - carnivores that we are, while I try to watch my intake of cured and red meat in general, there is no way that I could cut that stuff out of my diet entirely.

Foodie - next time I intend to eat that for a mid-morning meal...just to see if what the proprietor said about serving any time of day is true!
foodhoe said…
ahhh I always enjoy reading about these italian eateries! those anchovies and cured meats look delicious.
2kamuela47 said…
Rowena love your little find here with the local vendors.
Frizzy said…
So wish I could travel with you and MOTH even for a day or two. You find some wonderful little places. We tried Lardo in Tuscany. We thought it was a cheese sample and devoured it. Imagine our shock when we finally saw the sign announcing what it was. lol One memory we'll NEVER FORGET!
Rowena said…
Foodhoe - I am still waiting to hit on the motherlode of antipasti plates where it isn't a smokin' chef behind the scenes but someone's spunky little grandma.

Laura - just like in Hawaii, mo' bettah to eat with the locals. I just wish I could've understood their localspeak :o)

Frizzy - I have radar-capability in my brains which does help a lot in discovering the "authentic stuff". I can't stand it when I use guides and a place turns out to be a lot of pomp and nothing else. I bet that lardo experience will stay with you forever!
OkiHwn said…
The anchovies on toast sure looks ono!
Rowena said…
Nate - something about salty/salted fish that will always appeal to islanders. I can tell you what though, those anchovies are a real breath killer! *lol*
manju said…
Count me in on those anchovies! At least if you're both eating them then the stinky breath cancels each other out! : )

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